The Baseball Dad (#355)

My son wound up in the competitive local Little League—oops, I mean PONY League. (God forbid I don’t use proper terminology for the U.S. baseball caste system.) It wasn’t planned. We just happened to run into a fellow preschool parent on their way to the first meeting and my kid wanted to join his classmates.

I’d heard rumors, but I lacked firsthand knowledge about how insane some Pony League parents were until I watched a dad insist his (sobbing) child bat left-handed.

“I didn’t know Ty was a lefty,” I murmured to another mom.

“He’s not,” the mom whispered back. “But if he learns to bat left-handed, he’s got a much better chance at playing in high school or at a D1 college. Pitchers have a hard time with lefties.”

The sports advantage of being a lefty made sense. I played volleyball, and it’s much harder to block and defend the rare, left-handed hitter.

But to deliberately turn your kid into a lefty? Dalton, like most kids, was right-handed. He could barely hit the ball that way. I couldn’t imagine making it even more difficult by insisting he bat backwards. No wonder Ty was crying: batting had gone from being fun to being miserable. Which was anathema to me. I coached Dalton’s soccer team and the AYSO mandate was to make practices as much fun as possible.

Pony League did things…differently.

Over the next three years, I watched boys mess up their shoulders from pitching and cry. I watched a kid get his orbital socket broken by an errant pitch (the pitcher cried almost as much as the kid who got hit).

There was so much crying in baseball.

There was screaming, too. If it wasn’t a psycho sports dad, it was a player. One boy, who had just recovered from a broken orbital socket (apparently a common baseball injury), got dragged up to the plate by his father, despite his screams of protest. As soon as his dad let go, the kid bolted, carrying his father’s dreams of the Major Leagues with him.

Other parents sighed and offered the dad sympathy. I silently cheered the kid on: “Good job, buddy! Way to stand up for your poor face! I hope you find a safe home with theater or band kids some day!”

Dalton sliding into second

Obviously, I did not envision Dalton playing first base in high school, getting a scholarship to a Division I college, or going to the majors. All I wanted was for him to enjoy some team camaraderie, learn a few skills, and hopefully not sit on the bench too much.

We got two out of three. At least he couldn’t get injured when he was on the bench.

And, unlike with soccer, I didn’t have to coach baseball. There were tons of dads who volunteered. Each team had four coaches. They were almost all white. They were all young. And they were all committed baseball dads (i.e., not rational).

In addition to regular practices, mandatory time at the batting cages started at age six. (Some dads also had their own batting cages in their backyard.) The normal practices (beginning in February) often ran late, on fields without lights. Sunset is an ideal time for enthusiastic young boys to swing bats and throw hard balls—if you are trying to achieve concussions and broken noses.

More crying. More screaming. Blood, even.

I have never understood increasing the risk of injury to a child. And how insane is it to do it to your own child, the very child you want to play a sport so long and so well that it either saves you money or makes you money?

Welcome to the baseball edition of toxic masculinity. Put your son in harm’s way, then insist they fight through their completely unnecessary pain and mental trauma because that makes them real men. Oh, and make your love conditional on their performance. That won’t mess them up AT ALL.

When Dalton opted to focus on club soccer and drop other sports, Andy and I cheered. Club soccer cost a small fortune, but we could retire from coaching. Our son would have a professional, paid coach—not an insane baseball dad.

When I met my first club coach at tryouts, I told him, “Even though he’s fast, Dalton’s also pretty good in goal, if you want to try him there.”

The soccer coach gave me an incredulous look and said, “He’s left-footed. I’d be mad to put him in goal.”

I closed my gaping jaw and weakly echoed, “He’s left-footed? Really?”

I watched the coach mentally lumping me in the “American who doesn’t know shit about soccer” category before kindly offering me a way to save face by asking, “His coach never told you?”

Dalton’s coach thought back to her very first day coaching Dalton’s team.

I had taught ten five-year-old boys to plant one foot with the toes pointed in the direction they wanted the ball to travel and to then kick the ball with the other foot. I never told them WHICH foot to use. Dalton must have used his naturally dominant right foot to aim and kicked the ball with his left foot…and kept doing it. For almost 4 years.

OMG. I had turned my son into the most coveted player in team sports: a lefty.

I was a baseball dad.

The Lemon (#348)

I wouldn’t trade my husband for anything.

I reminded myself of this last weekend when he injured his dominant hand working on the sprinklers. (That’s sprinkler injury #2, for those counting.)

But if Andy had been a car? TOTAL. LEMON. (For younger readers, “lemon” is slang for a car that is constantly breaking, usually due to shitty manufacturing.)

The Spousemobile has had five surgeries on his knees and ankles (two ruptured tendons, two torn menisci, one giant cyst removed). He’s got compressed discs in his back. He’s broken his tailbone (not his fault, the poor Spousemobile got rear-ended by a texting idiot). Andy also has infection-induced asthma; normal winter colds regularly led to bronchitis until he got his CPAP machine (because he also has sleep apnea). He’s got retinas that would like to detach and has had holes in them soldered up by lasers regularly.

Luckily—or perhaps smartly—Andy picked a sturdy wife that can soldier on through pretty much all ailments. Torn quadricep? Watch me scoot around on the floor to clean! 6 months of nausea while pregnant? Let me just take some puke bags with the poop bags when I walk the dogs. Flattened by a dog while walking my dogs? I’ll leave a trail of blood, but I’ll get us all home. Familial vasovagal response that makes me pass out when I donate blood or see someone injured? Don’t worry, I’ve gotten very good at either not passing out or figuring out how to do it with minimal fuss/ bother. (The secret is to make a lot of jokes and talk to nurses to keep your blood pressure up. If that doesn’t work? Lie down ASAP. No matter how dirty, the floor is your friend.)

A man with tools and a bathroom sink
Andy being handy

Despite his issues, there’s no way I’m trading in the Spousemobile. Like most men, Andy tends to automatically put his own needs ahead of his pets and spawn, but when I lose my shit calmly explain that ideally one prioritizes one’s child over reading a newspaper, Andy makes adjustments. He works at a job he doesn’t love in order to keep us fed and medically insured. He cooks 30-50% of the time (he cooked more before child and injuries). He’s handy around the house (despite the demon sprinklers).

He wrestles with Baby D and even grudgingly coached youth sports.

A man and a boy with matching ice packs
Of course, wrestling with Baby D sometimes means ice packs for all.

Meanwhile, no small number of my Gen X mom friends have traded in their undented Chevy Novas (all white models). Some have decided there’s no point in having an extra car that just sits in the driveway with XM Sports Radio blaring while they are madly driving to work, school, the store, practices, the doctor, and the vet. Younger women, seeing all the trade-ins (and crashes) are opting to avoid the marital car altogether. Those that do get married are opting against having children.

I don’t care what the Boomers say: the Millennials are all right.

And Gen Z? They believe in voting, unions, universal healthcare, addressing climate change, and better public transportation.

May they never know what a vehicular lemon is.

Power Trip (#340)

I didn’t plan to take the summer off from blogging. Every day, I’d think, “I’m going to write the post about rescuing the cat! Or the one about husbandly information hoarding!”

And every day something would happen. Maybe an ant invasion. Maybe non-stop emails about soccer. Maybe another volunteer organization needed something handled. With the country opening up again (sometimes in very stupid ways), I had more visitors this summer than ever.

It was also summer vacation, which meant Baby D was home. I dread summer vacation. Yes, Dalton is more independent now that he’s older, but also more argumentative about chores. About screen time. About EVERYTHING, actually. Continue reading Power Trip (#340)

Summer Vacation or Summer Purgatory (#324)

I know parents who can’t wait for summer vacation.

“No more making lunches!” a mom of three rejoiced on the last day of school a few years ago.

“We’re totally sleeping in,” said the mom with twins.

Another mom chimed in with, “No nagging about homework for 2 whole months!”

There were moms who had vacations planned, or had already purchased season passes to Disneyland. They were as giddy as their kids about the end of school.

I was never one of those moms. I dreaded summer vacations. My only child NEVER slept past 6 AM. Baby D was a restless bundle of energy (and if you let it build up it would explode as destructively as possible). Continue reading Summer Vacation or Summer Purgatory (#324)

Post Father’s Day Post (#323)

Compared to Mother’s Day, Father’s Day is pretty recent. It only exists because certain politicians got all whiny about how dads in America were bereft of recognition. Instead of self-soothing with their higher wages, or their ability to assault women with impunity, or their success despite white mediocrity, they demanded their very own holiday.

President Nixon signed Father’s Day into law in 1972. Yes, NIXON, the most corrupt U.S. President until Trump demanded Nixon hold his beer.

Mother’s Day, at best, says “thanks for all the unpaid emotional labor of child-rearing, please have this one day off.” Ironically, it often means more work for a person who is already overworked and underpaid.

Father’s Day? Father’s Day is ridiculous. We live in a damned patriarchy. Every day is Father’s Day. Continue reading Post Father’s Day Post (#323)

A Coach of a Different Color (#297)

Blue hair makes practice fun!

I was my son’s first soccer coach. When various AYSO personnel made it clear that my job was to make soccer fun so the kids would want to keep playing, that’s what I did. Having racked up ungodly numbers of hours taking care of younger siblings and babysitting for cash, I understood that holding a child’s attention is not easy. You have to creative, flexible, a little silly, a lot encouraging, and just scary enough to keep the aggressive kids in line. If the kids weren’t improving or having fun, I figured that was my fault. I spent hours adjusting and agonizing over practices and games.

My Chinese-American husband had a completely different mindset.

Continue reading A Coach of a Different Color (#297)

The Reluctant Coach (#292)

I thought that signing up my kid for recreational soccer meant all I’d have to sign up for would be snacks.

That’s how they get you.

AYSO always needed volunteers. They threatened to dissolve multiple teams unless parents agreed to coach. They promised the parents plenty of free training.

I gave Andy a hopeful look.

My husband said, “Hell, no. You’re the one who wanted him to play soccer.”

I caved and agreed to coach Baby D’s U6 team. Continue reading The Reluctant Coach (#292)